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Judicial Watch Lawsuit Forces Release of DOJ Memo Declining Criminal Prosecution for Ashli Babbitt’s Shooter

Shooter U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd Did Not Create a Police Report on Killing, Byrd Had Prior ‘Use of Force’ Issue

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that it received productions of new records totaling 102 pages from the Department of Justice (DOJ) related to the shooting of January 6 protestor Ashli Babbitt that include a memo recommending “that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia decline for criminal prosecution the fatal shooting of Ashli McEntee [Babbitt],” also noting that the shooter, U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, “did not create a police report or documents” related to the shooting of Babbitt.

The documents also reveal that in the press release announcing the decision not to prosecute Byrd for the killing of Babbitt, the DOJ replaced the words “group” and “crowd” with the word “mob” several times. 

The unarmed Babbitt was shot and killed as she climbed through a broken interior window in the United States Capitol. She was a 14-year Air Force veteran. The identity of the shooter was kept secret by Congress, the Justice Department, and DC police for eight months until Byrd went public to try to defend his killing of Babbitt.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the Civil Rights Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (all components of the Justice Department) failed to provide the records responsive to Judicial Watch’s April 14, 2021, and May 20, 2021, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for records related to the death of Babbitt (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:21-cv-02462))

The records contain the prosecution declination memorandum justifying the decision not to prosecute Byrd for the shooting death of Babbitt (nee McEntee) on January 6.

The “Overview and Recommendation” section reads as follows:

This memorandum recommends that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia decline for criminal prosecution the fatal shooting of Ashli McEntee. 

***

 This declination is based on a review of law enforcement and civilian eyewitness accounts, physical evidence, recorded radio communications, cell phone footage, MPD reports, forensic reports, and the autopsy report for Ms. McEntee. After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances in this case, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lieutenant Byrd violated Ms. McEntee’s civil rights by willfully using more force than was reasonably necessary, or was not acting in self-defense or the defense of others.

The memo details:

Once the demonstrators broke the glass, Lieutenant Byrd took up a tactical position to the immediate right of the barricaded entry doors, [Capitol Police Officer Reggie Tyson] took up a tactical position behind Lieutenant Byrd on the right side behind the third pillar and Sergeant McKenna took up a tactical position behind Officer Tyson and behind the fourth pillar on the right side of the Speakers Lobby.

***

All three officers had their service pistols drawn, pointed them in the direction of the barricaded entry doors, and repeatedly instructed the ‘mob’ to get back. The ‘mob’ of demonstrators ignored the officers’ commands and continued to break the glass on the doors in their attempt to breach the Speakers Lobby. Suddenly, Ashli McEntee began to crawl through one of the doors where the glass was already broken out. As Ms. McEntee was climbing through the door, Lieutenant Byrd stepped forward from his tactical position towards Ms. McEntee and fired one round from his service pistol striking Ms. McEntee in her left shoulder, just below her clavicle. Ms. McEntee then fell back from the doorway and onto the floor.

Regarding possible closed-circuit television footage the memo notes “There are several USCP operated Closed-Circuit Television Video (CCTV) cameras inside of the United States Capitol Building. However, there were no CCTV cameras observed or located in the Speaker’s Lobby area.” 

In a section of the memo titled “USCP Lieutenant Michael Byrd,” the memo notes: “He [Byrd] did not create any police reports or documents relating to the incident, and did not provide an official statement regarding use of force” though he did provide a voluntary “debrief” and walk-through of the scene with his lawyer. A footnote details that: “During the debrief of Lieutenant Byrd, he did recall writing a few sentences on an evidence bag the evening of January 6, 2021, at the request of a crime scene officer. To date, the bag has not been located by USCP or MPD.”

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